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Five alleged Russian spies to face trial in London court in late 2024

LONDON (Reuters) - Five Bulgarian nationals accused of being part of a Russian spying network in Britain will stand trial next year, a judge at London's Old Bailey court said on Friday.

The three men and two women are accused of conspiring "to collect information intended to be directly or indirectly useful to an enemy for a purpose prejudicial to the safety and interest of the state" between Aug. 30, 2020 and Feb. 8, 2023.

Orlin Roussev, 45, Bizer Dzhambazov, 42, Katrin Ivanova, 32, Ivan Stoyanov, 31, and Vanya Gaberova, 29, all Bulgarian nationals who lived in London and Norfolk, were arrested by counter-terrorism police in February this year.

They appeared at the Old Bailey by videolink on Friday, speaking only to confirm their names.

Judge Jeremy Baker ruled that a separate case involving Roussev, Dzhambazov and Ivanova – who have also been charged with identity document offences – should be heard at the same time as the conspiracy case.

The judge provisionally listed the trial, which is expected to take up to four months, to begin in October 2024.

Prosecutors accuse the five defendants of being part of an organised network which had carried out surveillance and hostile action on behalf of Russia against specific targets, including for potential abductions.

(Reporting by Sam Tobin, Editing by Kylie MacLellan)